by Jeffrey W. Hamilton
Among the duties or roles within the church listed in Ephesians 4:11-12 is the work of the evangelist. The word is translated from a Greek word which referred to a person who brought joyous news of victory from the battlefront. When the same word is used in reference to what that person does, it is often translated "preaching the gospel" as in Romans 1:15. An evangelist, then, is a person who brings good news to the world.
The same work is also called preaching. Paul said he was eager to preach the gospel (evangelize) in Rome in Romans 1:15. In II Corinthians 1:19, Paul said that he, Silvanus, and Timothy had preached in Corinth. In I Timothy 2:7, Paul said he was appointed to be both an apostle and a preacher. The word translated "preacher" comes from the Greek word for a herald or a town-crier. Such a person delivered the messages and commands of the king. He was not the originator of the message, but merely its deliverer.
Yet another word for the same work is ministry. "But I have written very boldly to you on some points so as to remind you again, because of the grace that was given me from God, to be a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the gospel of God, so that my offering of the Gentiles may become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit." (Romans 15:15-16). "To be specific, that the Gentiles are fellow heirs and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel, of which I was made a minister, according to the gift of God's grace which was given to me according to the working of His power." (Ephesians 3:6-7). This word comes from the Greek word for a servant. The same word can refer to a servant in a household, a deacon in the church, or a minister. It is the context which defines which English word should be used. A minister serves Christ and His church by teaching the word of God.
The terms are used interchangeably. "Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God" (Colossians 1:25). Paul was made a minister in order to preach the word of God. "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (II Timothy 4:5). Timothy's ministry was to do the work of an evangelist.
Many denominations distinguish between an evangelist, preacher, and minister. In their terms, an evangelist goes out to reach the lost souls, a preacher teaches from a pulpit, and a minister does service for the less fortunate. However, the Bible does not draw such a distinction. An evangelist is involved in the building up of members in the church (Ephesians 4:11-13). A preacher brings the good news to the lost (I Timothy 2:7; II Timothy 1:11). A minister also taught the lost (I Corinthians 3:5).
You will also find the word "pastor" used in the denominational world to refer to men who essentially perform the work of a evangelist / preacher / minister. However, Ephesians 4:11-12 shows that a pastor is a distinct role from the evangelist. The word "pastor" is from the Greek word for someone who feeds sheep. Such is the duty of another group who are referred to as overseers (Acts 20:28) or elders (Acts 20:17).
Paul tells Timothy, "But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry." (II Timothy 4:5). What then is the work of an evangelist?
A preacher is a herald, proclaiming the good news of salvation. Hence, a preacher reaches out to the lost to guide them to the words which will save their souls. "So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome. For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek." (Romans 1:15-16). Paul warned Timothy to keep his teaching accurate, "Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you." (I Timothy 4:16). God chose this seemingly foolish method to save mankind. "For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not come to know God, God was well-pleased through the foolishness of the message preached to save those who believe." (I Corinthians 1:21).
However, it is a mistake to think that a preacher's duties only relate to those who are lost. An evangelist is one of those placed by Christ to build up his people (Ephesians 4:11-13). Hence, a preacher must teach Christians how to live in accordance with God's will (I Timothy 4:11,13). He gives encouragement to fellow Christians, exhorting them to do what is right (I Timothy 4:13; II Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15).
Part of that teaching is the public declaration of God's will. "But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine." (Titus 2:1). "This is a trustworthy statement; and concerning these things I want you to speak confidently, so that those who have believed God will be careful to engage in good deeds. These things are good and profitable for men." (Titus 3:8). "Until I come, give attention to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation and teaching." (I Timothy 4:13). Such teaching is also a part of a congregation's worship (I Corinthians 14:26).
Since the message does not originate with the preacher, it is the preacher's duty to ensure that the message is preserved accurately. "O Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you, avoiding worldly and empty chatter and the opposing arguments of what is falsely called "knowledge" -- which some have professed and thus gone astray from the faith. Grace be with you." (I Timothy 6:20-21). "Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you." (II Timothy 1:13-14). Such guardianship will at times place the preacher in opposition to false teachers. "As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines, nor to pay attention to myths and endless genealogies, which give rise to mere speculation rather than furthering the administration of God which is by faith." (I Timothy 1:3-4). "This command I entrust to you, Timothy, my son, in accordance with the prophecies previously made concerning you, that by them you fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith." (I Timothy 1:18-19). "This testimony is true. For this reason reprove them severely so that they may be sound in the faith, not paying attention to Jewish myths and commandments of men who turn away from the truth." (Titus 1:13-14).
When a preacher finds a person not living in accordance with God's commandments, it is his duty to rebuke them. "Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction." (II Timothy 4:2). After telling Timothy about the digression to come, Paul said, "In pointing out these things to the brethren, you will be a good servant of Christ Jesus, constantly nourished on the words of the faith and of the sound doctrine which you have been following." (I Timothy 4:6).
In carrying out these duties, a preacher comes from a position of authority. "These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you." (Titus 2:15). The authority is not within the preacher, but the preacher has been given authority by God to carry out his duties.
While a preacher's primary duty is heralding the word of Truth, the Bible records several other miscellaneous duties for the preacher.
He is to set an example for others in how to follow the Gospel. "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe." (I Timothy 4:12)
A preacher is involved in the selection of elders in congregations and seeing that congregations are properly organized. "For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you" (Titus 1:5).
Preachers are also involved in rebuking elders who sin. "The elders who rule well are to be considered worthy of double honor, especially those who work hard at preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, "YOU SHALL NOT MUZZLE THE OX WHILE HE IS THRESHING," and "The laborer is worthy of his wages." Do not receive an accusation against an elder except on the basis of two or three witnesses. Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear. I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus and of His chosen angels, to maintain these principles without bias, doing nothing in a spirit of partiality." (I Timothy 5:17-21). Preachers are to maintain the accuracy in following the truth. No one, including the overseers of congregations, is exempted from this and preachers are charged with seeing that such faithfulness is maintained.
Obviously, such duties requires a preacher to know God's word very well. "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." (II Timothy 2:15). In our society, many preachers attend formal schools to learn the word of God in depth. However, this is not the way it was originally done. Timothy’s knowledge of the Scriptures came from his training in early childhood (II Timothy 1:5; 2:14-15). He then traveled extensively with Paul and other preachers (Acts 16:1-3). Besides Paul, Timothy spent a good bit of time in the company of Silas (Acts 17:14-15; 18:15). Soon Timothy was being sent to various congregations by Paul either in the company of another preacher or alone.
Hence, we learn that preachers are responsible for the training of other preachers. “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (II Timothy 2:2). The idea of going to a school to learn how to preach is actually fraught with danger. By centralizing the training, the devil’s work is made easier. All that is need is to corrupt a few teachers in the school and false doctrine is rapidly spread throughout the brotherhood. However, with decentralized training no one preacher can impact the teaching in the majority of churches.
The idea of ordination is to choose or appoint a man for an office, such as Titus appointing (or ordaining) elders (Titus 1:5). Denominations use ordination papers to state that a man is approved by the denomination to preach their doctrine. However, the true church’s only headquarters is in heaven. Christ is the head of the church (Ephesians 5:23) and it is Christ who has authorized or appointed the duty of an evangelist (Ephesians 4:11).
Still, the question remains, does it take the designation of another man to make a fellow a preacher? The apparent answer is “no.” No one is mentioned in the New Testament as being selected for the role. (This is in contrast to elders and deacons who were appointed to their duties.) Since ministers generally serve a local congregation, that congregation has the right to accept or reject a man as a preacher, just as they have the right to accept or reject any member. Support for a preacher comes from the local congregation (I Corinthians 9). If a congregation feels a preacher is not doing his duty in upholding the gospel, they can withdraw both their fellowship and support (II John 9-11; Galatians 1:6-10). A preacher is treated no differently than any other member, except that his living is gained from the support given to him by those he teaches.